Five Killed In Car Bombing In Somalia Capital

Somalia Election: Mohamed Abdullahi Emerges As President
Somalia’s flag.

 

Five people were killed and over a dozen injured in a car bombing near a school in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Thursday, a security official said, in the latest attack to hit the troubled country.

“There was a car bomb blast… the death of five people was confirmed and 15 others were wounded”, security official Mohamed Abdillahi told AFP, adding that 11 students were among the injured victims.

“We don’t know the target of the attack… (but) there was a private security escort vehicle passing by the area,” he added.

The director of Mogadishu’s Aamin ambulance service, Abdikadir Abdirahman, shared photos of the rubble-strewn scene on Twitter, calling the bombing “a tragedy”.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blast, but the jihadist Al-Shabaab group has claimed other bombings in Mogadishu, including a deadly attack on Saturday that killed a prominent Somali journalist.

Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled, the director of government-owned Radio Mogadishu, was a fierce critic of the Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a violent insurgency against the country’s fragile government since 2007, claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in a statement, saying its fighters had long pursued the journalist.

Al-Shabaab controlled the capital until 2011 when it was pushed out by African Union troops, but it still holds territory in the countryside and launches frequent attacks against government and civilian targets in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

AFP

UN ‘Alarmed’ As Somalia Fighting Displaces 100,000

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The UN voiced alarm July 19, 2021, at reports that several governments used Israeli phone malware to spy on activists, journalists and others, stressing the urgent need for better regulation of surveillance technology.
Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The UN warned Tuesday of severe humanitarian problems in central Somalia after 100,000 people were displaced by fighting between pro-government forces and Sufi militants.

Fighters loyal to Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) occupied the strategic town of Guricel earlier this month, before being driven out last week by national forces and paramilitaries in operations that killed at least a dozen people, including civilians.

“We are concerned, even alarmed, by the ongoing fighting in Guricel which is now continuing for the past few days,” the UN Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan, told a press briefing.

“First and foremost, we are concerned by its humanitarian consequences, which have been severe. Reports are still initial but they signal nearly 20,000 families displaced, representing some 100,000 people.”

He also warned of “very troubling reports of damage to hospitals and civil society facilities as a consequence of the fighting,” adding that such attacks amounted to a violation of international humanitarian law.

The UN earlier said that many of those fleeing the violence had sought shelter in villages that are already grappling with drought and water shortages.

Guricel is the second-largest town in the Galmudug region, which has witnessed a long-armed struggle by the Sufi militia.

The ASWJ has controlled many of the major cities in Galmudug over the past decade, and efforts to broker a military and political settlement to their feud with regional authorities have not succeeded.

The Sufi group’s recent military advances in Galmudug coincide with upper house elections in the region, which is the last of Somalia’s five federal member states to complete the long-overdue process.

The Horn of Africa nation has been struggling to hold elections and fend off a long-running Islamist insurgency, with al-Shabaab militants regularly carrying out attacks across the country.

Swan said the violence in Galmudug was “a distraction from other critical priorities, namely the completion of the electoral process and the continuation of the fight against al-Shabaab.”

Elections in Somalia follow a complex indirect model, whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the upper and lower houses of parliament, who in turn choose the president.

The presidential election is nearly a year overdue, with the process dogged by political infighting at the highest level of government, and feuds between Mogadishu and some states.

Somalia Comes Out On Top In Kenya Sea Border Judgment

This aerial view taken on September 19, 2019 shows Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Tina SMOLE / AFP

 

The UN’s top court awarded Somalia control of most of a potentially oil and gas-rich chunk of the Indian Ocean on Tuesday after a bitter legal battle with neighbouring Kenya over their sea border.

The International Court of Justice ruled there was “no agreed maritime boundary” and drew a new border close to the one claimed by Somalia, although Kenya kept a part of the 100,000 square-kilometre (38,000-square-mile) area, chief judge Joan Donoghue said.

Kenya, which had claimed the entire area off the East African coast, said last week that it would refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of the “biased” Hague-based court.

The court’s decision, which is final, could have far-reaching consequences for the future of relations between two key countries in one of the world’s most troubled regions.

Somalia dragged Kenya to the ICJ in 2014 over the disputed patch of sea.

At the heart of the dispute is the direction that the joint maritime boundary should take from the point where the land frontiers meet on the coast.

Binding judgment

Somalia insisted the boundary should follow the orientation of its land border and thus head out in a 200 nautical mile line towards the southeast.

But Kenya said its boundary runs in a straight line due east — a delineation that would have given it a big triangular slice of the sea.

The court in the end drew a line passing closer to the boundary claimed by Somalia.

Nairobi says it has exercised sovereignty over the area since 1979, when it proclaimed the limits of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) — a maritime territory where a state has the right to exploit resources.

READ ALSO: Top UN Court To Rule On Bitter Kenya-Somalia Border Spat

The contested 100,000-square-kilometre (38,000-square-mile) area is believed to contain rich gas and oil deposits, and also has important fishing rights.

Nairobi has already granted exploration permits to Italian energy giant ENI but Somalia is contesting the move.

Rulings by the ICJ, which was set up after World War II to resolve disputes between UN member states, are binding and cannot be appealed.

The court has no overt means of enforcing judgments but can refer violations to the United Nations.

In a similar maritime border dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua, the case went back to court in September after Nicaragua accused Colombia of flouting a 2012 judgment by the court in its favour.

‘Inherent bias’

Kenya pulled out of hearings in the Somalia case in March, after unsuccessfully arguing that the court did not have competence over the case.

Just over two weeks ago, Nairobi notified the UN secretary-general that it was withdrawing its 1965 declaration accepting the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

The Kenyan foreign ministry accused the court of “obvious and inherent bias”.

“As a sovereign nation, Kenya shall no longer be subjected to an international court or tribunal without its express consent,” the Kenyan foreign ministry said.

Somalia and Kenya had agreed in 2009 to settle the squabble through bilateral negotiations but negotiations broke down in 2014.

Somalia then took the matter to the ICJ later the same year, saying diplomatic attempts to resolve the row had led nowhere.

Monday’s verdict may further sour diplomatic relations between the two countries after Kenya in 2019 recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu after accusing Somalia of selling off oil and gas blocks in the contested area.

It tartly reminded Somalia of Kenya’s sacrifices in the battle against Al-Shabaab jihadists.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to AMISOM, an African Union military operation fighting Al-Qaeda-linked fighters waging a violent insurgency across Somalia.

 

AFP

Sea Of Troubles: The Somalia-Kenya Marine Border Spat

This aerial view taken on September 19, 2019 shows Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Tina SMOLE / AFP

 

Somalia and Kenya have been feuding for years over a triangular area of the Indian Ocean that is believed to hold deposits of oil and gas.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is due to rule on their border dispute on Tuesday.

Line of sovereignty

The two sides disagree over the direction the maritime boundary should take from the point where their frontiers meet at the coast.

Somalia, which initiated arbitration in The Hague, argues the marine boundary should follow the line of its land border and thus head towards the southeast.

READ ALSO: Top UN Court To Rule On Bitter Kenya-Somalia Border Spat

Kenya says its border heads out to sea in a straight line east.

Nairobi says it has exercised sovereignty over the contested area since 1979, when Kenya proclaimed the limits of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The EEZ is a marine territory extending up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) offshore where a state has the right to exploit resources.

Treasure below

Riches as well as sovereignty are at stake.

It is believed an oil and gas bonanza lies beneath the disputed 100,000-square-kilometre (38,000-square-mile) swathe of ocean. Nairobi has granted exploration permits to Italian energy giant ENI but the Somalis are contesting the move.

For Kenya, redefining the border along Somalia’s claim would also cut into fertile fishing grounds, particularly around the Lamu archipelago.

Talks fail

The two countries agreed in 2009 to settle their dispute through bilateral negotiations.

Two meetings were held in 2014, but little progress made. A third round that same year fell through when the Kenyan delegation failed to show up without informing their counterparts, later citing security concerns.

Somalia referred the matter to the ICJ in August 2014, citing a collapse in diplomatic efforts to solve the spat.

Kenya challenged the ICJ’s authority to rule, arguing that arbitration could only take place once the negotiation process was complete.

The ICJ asserted jurisdiction in February 2017. Hearings were scheduled for September 2019 but postponed three times before being set for March 2021.

Kenya then announced it would not participate in the hearings, and just days before the ICJ verdict the foreign ministry said it did not recognise the tribunal’s “compulsory jurisdiction.”

Diplomatic powderkeg

The dispute has added to ructions in ties between the neighbours.

Kenya recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu in early 2019 after accusing Somalia of auctioning off oil and gas blocks in the contested area.

It described the move as an “illegal grab” at resources, and reminded Somalia of Kenya’s help in the battle against Al-Shabaab jihadists.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to AMISOM, an African Union military operation against the Al-Qaeda-linked fighters waging a violent insurgency across Somalia.

Mogadishu rejected suggestions that it had auctioned off permits, pledging not to do so until the ICJ had delivered its ruling.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta met in November 2019 and agreed to “normalise” relations.

But Somalia then severed ties in December 2020 after Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by Mogadishu.

They agreed to reset relations when Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble held talks with Kenyatta in August 2021.

 

AFP

Top UN Court To Rule On Bitter Kenya-Somalia Border Spat

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

The UN’s top court will rule in a bitter border dispute between Somalia and Kenya on Tuesday, delivering a verdict with potentially far-reaching consequences for bilateral ties and energy extraction in the region.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), is to give its final word in a case filed by Mogadishu more than seven years ago.

A full bench of 15 judges led by US judge Joan Donoghue will hand down the verdict at the Peace Palace in The Hague at 1300 GMT.

At stake are sovereignty, undersea riches and the future of relations between two countries in one of the world’s most troubled regions.

Kenya has already lashed the ICJ as biased and announced it does not recognise the court’s binding jurisdiction.

At the heart of the dispute is the direction that the joint maritime boundary should take from the point where the land frontiers meet on the coast.

Somalia insists the boundary should follow the orientation of its land border and thus head out in a line towards the southeast.

But Kenya says its boundary runs in a straight line east — a delineation that would give it a big triangular slice of the sea.

READ ALSO: China Pledges $233 Million To Global Biodiversity Fund

Nairobi says it has exercised sovereignty over the area since 1979, when it proclaimed the limits of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) — a maritime territory extending up to 200 nautical miles offshore where a state has the right to exploit resources.

The contested 100,000-square-kilometre (38,000-square-mile) area is believed to contain rich gas and oil deposits.

Nairobi has already granted exploration permits to Italian energy giant ENI but Somalia is contesting the move.

Kenyan anger

Established after World War II, the ICJ rules in disputes between UN member states. Its decisions are binding and cannot be appealed.

Kenya unsuccessfully argued that the court did not have competence over the case, and in March did not attend hearings, citing difficulties arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

Just over two weeks ago, Nairobi notified the UN secretary-general that it was withdrawing its 1965 declaration accepting the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

“The delivery of the judgement will be the culmination of a flawed judicial process that Kenya has had reservations with, and withdrawn from,” the Kenyan foreign ministry said last week.

It accused the court of “obvious and inherent bias” in addressing the dispute.

“As a sovereign nation, Kenya shall no longer be subjected to an international court or tribunal without its express consent.”

Long-running dispute

Somalia and Kenya had agreed in 2009 to settle the squabble through bilateral negotiations.

Two meetings were held in 2014, but little progress was made. A third-round that same year fell through when the Kenyan delegation failed to show up without informing their counterparts, later citing security concerns.

Somalia then took the matter to the ICJ in 2014, saying diplomatic attempts to resolve the row had led nowhere.

Monday’s verdict may further sour diplomatic relations between the two countries after Kenya in 2019 recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu after accusing Somalia of selling off oil and gas blocks in the contested area.

Nairobi called the move an “unparalleled affront and illegal grab” at its resources.

It tartly reminded Somalia of Kenya’s sacrifices in the battle against Al-Shabaab jihadists.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to AMISOM, an African Union military operation fighting Al-Qaeda-linked fighters waging a violent insurgency across Somalia.

AFP

Car Bomb Kills Eight People Near Somalia’s Presidential Palace

Security officers are seen at the scene of a car-bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on September 25, 2021. STRINGER / AFP

 

A car bomb exploded at a checkpoint near Somalia’s presidential palace Saturday, killing eight people, police said, as the Al-Shabaab jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We have confirmed that eight people most of them civilians died and seven others wounded in the car bomb blast”, district police chief Mucawiye Ahmed Mudey told reporters.

The bombing took place within a kilometre of Villa Somalia, the presidential palace.

A witness said the car bomb was detonated when police stopped the driver for a security check.

“They normally stop to check and clear vehicles before they can pass by the checkpoint. This car was stopped by the security guards and it went off while there were several other cars and people passing by the nearby road. I saw wounded and dead people being carried,” said witness Mohamed Hassan.

The Al-Shabaab group claimed responsibility in a brief statement.

“The Mujahedeen carried (out) a martyrdom operation targeting the main security checkpoint of the presidential palace. There were commanders and officials from the apostates who stayed (in) the area when the attack occurred.”

The jihadist group controlled the capital until 2011 when it was pushed out by African Union troops, but it still holds territory in the countryside and launches frequent attacks against government and civilian targets in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

Somalia Vote To Go Ahead ‘As planned’, PM Tells UN

(COMBO/FILES): Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble attending the closing ceremony after reaching an agreement for the new elections at the National Consultative Council on Elections in Mogadishu, Somalia, on May 27, 2021.   

 

Somalia’s long-delayed elections will proceed “as planned”, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble told visiting UN diplomats on Sunday, even as a damaging feud between him and the country’s president sparked fresh fears for the troubled Horn of Africa Nation.

The very public spat between Roble and President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, comes as Somalia struggles to organise polls that are months behind schedule and keep an Islamist insurgency at bay.

As senior politicians made frantic efforts to defuse tensions and end the impasse, Roble told a delegation led by United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed that the vote would go ahead as planned.

The increasingly bitter row has threatened to throw an already fragile electoral process into deeper peril.

Farmajo’s four-year mandate expired in February, but was extended by parliament in April, triggering deadly gun battles in the capital Mogadishu, with some rivals viewing it as a flagrant power grab.

Roble cobbled together a new timetable for polls, but the process fell behind, and on Wednesday he accused Farmajo of trying to reclaim “election and security responsibilities” from him.

On Sunday, as Roble sought to reassure UN diplomats about the vote, his office released a statement saying: “We are committed to hold the elections as planned, and other existing matters will not have any effect on the elections.”

“The prime minister informed the delegation about the achievements made towards (holding) the election… and how he is committed to (holding) elections that are peaceful and transparent,” the statement said.

Elections in Somalia follow a complex indirect model, whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who in turn choose the president.

The next phase is scheduled for between October 1 and November 25.

– Security threats –

The row erupted last week when Roble sacked Somalia’s intelligence chief over his handling of a high-profile probe into the disappearance of a young agent.

Farmajo overruled the prime minister, appointing the dumped intelligence official as his national security adviser.

Roble in turn accused the president of “obstructing” the investigation, and in a late-night move on Wednesday, fired the security minister and replaced him with a Farmajo critic.

The spat has raised the political temperature in Mogadishu, with a coalition of opposition presidential candidates on Friday saying it “supports the prime minister… and condemns the actions of the outgoing president”.

The UN Assistance Mission in Somalia last week urged both leaders to stop bickering and focus on the elections.

Analysts say Somalia’s political crises have distracted from more pressing threats, most notably the violent Al-Shabaab insurgency.

The Al-Qaeda allies were driven out of Mogadishu a decade ago but retain control of swathes of countryside and continue to stage deadly attacks.

AFP

Somalia To Hold Elections Within 60 Days

Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country in the Horn of Africa.

 

Somalia’s government announced on Thursday that delayed elections would be held within 60 days, following months of deadlock over the vote that erupted into violence in the troubled country.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and state leaders had been unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February, triggering an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

The political impasse exploded into violence in April when negotiations collapsed and the lower house of parliament extended the president’s mandate by two years, sparking gun battles on the streets of Mogadishu.

Under pressure the president, better known as Farmajo, reversed the mandate extension and ordered his prime minister to reconvene with the leaders of Somalia’s five states to chart a fresh roadmap toward elections.

“About the schedule of elections, the national consultative forum agreed that elections will be held within 60 days,” said deputy information minister Abdirahman Yusuf at the conclusion of five days of negotiations in the capital.

The exact dates for parliamentary and presidential elections would be determined by the electoral board, he added.

“It is a historic day,” said Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, whose office will take charge of overseeing the electoral process.

Farmajo thanked the various parties for compromising, declaring the outcome “a victory for Somali people everywhere”.

Somalia’s foreign partners — including key backers who threatened sanctions if polls were not quickly held — also welcomed the breakthrough.

“We now urge all stakeholders to move forward swiftly to organize inclusive and transparent elections without delay,” read a statement issued by the UN signed by the US, Britain, EU and other western and regional powers.

Somalia’s elections follow a complex indirect model whereby special delegates chosen by the country’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.

The United Nations has described a one-person, one-vote election as essential for Somalia’s democratisation but the milestone has eluded the fragile country for half a century.

Successive presidents have promised a direct vote but political infighting, logistical problems and a violent insurgency by the Al-Shabaab militant group has prevented such an exercise.

– Distrust –

Farmajo and the states agreed in September on a path to elections, again abandoning universal franchise for the indirect model, but increasing the number of delegates to make the process more inclusive.

But distrust over key appointments to crucial election committees, fears of rigging, and concerns about securing the vote itself, scuttled the plan.

Months of UN-backed negotiations failed to get the timetable back on track, with the crisis culminating in parliament approving the mandate extensions despite opposition from the Senate and the states.

The crisis stoked fears of outright civil war as soldiers deserted their posts in the countryside to fight for their political allegiances in the capital.

At least three people died in the clashes, with government losing control of key parts of Mogadishu as roads were sandbagged and fighters with machine guns watched key junctions.

The fighting drove tens of thousands of people from their homes, as the international community called for a ceasefire and urged the warring sides to again come to the table.

Opposition forces withdrew in early May after Roble assured the political opposition that their concerns would be heard.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fuelled by clan conflicts.

The Horn of Africa country still faces a violent insurgency from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group, which controlled the capital until 2011 when it was pushed out by African Union troops.

AFP

Kenya Suspends Flights To Somalia For Three Months

Kenya announced that flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu had been suspended.

 

 

Kenya announced Tuesday that flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu had been suspended, just days after Somalia said diplomatic ties with its neighbour had been normalised following months of tension.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said commercial flights to and from Somalia would be paused for three months, without giving a reason.

“All flights between Kenya and Somalia are suspended expect medevac flights and United Nations flights on humanitarian missions only,” the regulator said..

KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe told AFP the suspension was “a decision by the government” but gave no further details.

The directive appeared catch some Somali aviation officials and travel agents by surprise.

“We had not been given a prior notice, and there’s been no explanation about the reason so far,” an airport tower operator in Mogadishu told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The suspension comes a day after Somalia said shipments of khat from Kenya remained on hold. Khat is a narcotic leaf popular in Somalia.

Somalia announced last week that bilateral ties with Kenya had been restored, citing “the interests of good neighbourliness” as motivating its decision.

Nairobi said it took note of the statement and was looking forward “to further normalisation of relations by the Somali authorities.”

Mogadishu cut off diplomatic relations in December after Nairobi hosted the political leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by Somalia’s central government.

Somalia has long bristled over what it calls Kenya’s meddling in regions over its border, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.

The pair have also engaged in a long-running territorial dispute over a stretch of the Indian Ocean claimed by both nations believed to hold valuable deposits of oil and gas, and have sought international arbitration over the matter.

Diplomatic Ties Restored With Kenya, Says Somalia

Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country in the Horn of Africa.

 

Somalia said Thursday it had restored diplomatic ties with Kenya, five months after bilateral relations were suspended between the often-tense neighbours over allegations of interference.

Somalia cut ties on December 15 after Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by the central government in Mogadishu.

“The Federal Government of Somalia announces that in keeping with the interests of good neighbourliness, it has resumed diplomatic relations with the Republic of Kenya,” the ministry of information said in a statement.

“The two governments agree to keep friendly relations between the two countries on the basis of principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other internation affair.”

The statement thanked the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, whom it credited with playing a part in the reconciliation, and said the thaw had been welcomed by Kenya.

Nairobi said it took note of the statement and was looking forward “to further normalisation of relations by the Somali authorities.”

“The ministry of foreign affairs acknowledges the continued support that has been extended from the international community, and in particular the government of Qatar, in efforts to normalise the diplomatic relations between Somalia and Kenya,” it said in a statement.

Somalia has long bristled over what it calls Kenya’s meddling in regions over its border, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.

The pair have also engaged in a long-running territorial dispute over a stretch of the Indian Ocean claimed by both nations believed to hold valuable deposits of oil and gas, and have sought international arbitration over the matter.

The row over which nation controls access to the lucrative deposits escalated in early 2019 after Somalia decided to auction off oil and gas blocks in a disputed maritime area, prompting Kenya to recall its ambassador from Mogadishu in February of that year.

Somalia’s President Mohamed Calls For Elections In Bid To Ease Tensions

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed
President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (AFP)

 

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed called early Wednesday for elections and a return to dialogue after the extension of his mandate by two years sparked the country’s worst political violence in years.

The president, best known by his nickname Farmajo, addressed the nation at around 1:00 am local time (2200 GMT) after hours of anticipation, with Mogadishu on a knife’s edge as government troops and pro-opposition soldiers beefed up their positions and civilians fled their homes.

The rival sides exchanged gunfire on Sunday in an eruption of long-simmering tensions sparked by the delay of February elections and Farmajo’s extension of his mandate earlier this month.

The president said he would appear before parliament on Saturday to “gain their endorsement for the electoral process”, calling on political actors to hold “urgent discussions” on how to conduct the vote.

“As we have repeatedly stated, we have always been ready to implement timely and peaceful elections in the country,” he said.

Tensions have been rising in Somalia since Farmajo’s four-year term lapsed in February, as he and leaders of Puntland and Jubaland, two of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states, failed to agree on how to conduct elections.

A deal had been cobbled together in September, which later collapsed, and multiple rounds of UN-backed talks failed to broker a way forward.

The international community has repeatedly called for elections to go ahead, threatening sanctions.

“I hereby call upon all of the signatories of the 17 September agreement to come together immediately for urgent discussions on the unconditional implementation of the above-mentioned agreement,” said Farmajo.

That agreement paved the way for indirect elections whereby special delegates chosen by Somalia’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.

However, the law extending Farmajo’s mandate planned for a long-promised one-person, one-vote election in 2023, the first such direct poll since 1969, the year dictator Siad Barre led a coup before ruling for two decades.

 On the ‘precipice’

The collapse of Barre’s military regime in 1991 led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fuelled by clan conflicts.

For more than a decade conflict has centred on Al-Shabaab, the Islamist insurgents linked to Al-Qaeda, who control swathes of countryside and regularly stage deadly attacks in the capital.

However the return of street combat in Mogadishu, and the army splintering along clan lines — the building blocks of Somali society — has put the country on a “precipice”, said analyst Omar Mahmood.

“When we’re talking about the breakdown of security forces along clan lines it really is reminiscent of the civil war that began in the late 80s and early 90s in Somalia,” he said.

Farmajo’s speech came after his Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble — and leaders of the two key states which have backed him, Galmudug and Hirshabelle — on Tuesday rejected the extension of his mandate and called for elections to be held.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a statement that the “immediate trigger” for Sunday’s violence was the influx of army units loyal to one of the opposition presidential candidates, who had abandoned their posts in south-central Hirshabelle — one of the frontlines against Al-Shabaab.

These troops, who have barricaded roads and deployed trucks mounted with machine guns, were now “in control of sections of the capital”, said the ICG.

The UN Mission in Somalia said it was “alarmed” by clan divisions within the Somali National Army and warned the political conflict distracted from the fight against Al-Shabaab.

‘Fear for our lives’

Since the fighting on Sunday, both sides have built up their presence in the capital, terrifying citizens weary of decades of civil conflict and an Islamist insurgency.

Mogadishu residents on Tuesday piled televisions and mattresses into rickshaws or loaded belongings onto donkeys, as they fled their homes.

“We fear for our lives… We have decided to get out of here before it is too late,” said Shamis Ahmed, a mother of five who abandoned her home.

-AFP

Somali President Signs Controversial Law Extending Mandate For Two years

 

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed
President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (AFP)

 

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has signed a controversial law extending his mandate for another two years, despite threats of sanctions from the international community.

State broadcaster Radio Mogadishu said the president, better known by his nickname Farmajo, had “signed into law the special resolution guiding the elections of the country after it was unanimously passed by parliament”.

Somalia’s lower house of parliament on Monday voted to extend the president’s mandate — which expired in February — after months of deadlock over the holding of elections in the fragile nation.

However the speaker of the Senate slammed the move as unconstitutional, and the resolution was not put before the upper house, which would normally be required, before being signed into law.

Speaker Abdi Hashi Abdullahi said it would “lead the country into political instability, risks of insecurity and other unpredictable situations”.

Farmajo and the leaders of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous federal states had reached an agreement in September that paved the way for indirect parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021.

But it fell apart as squabbles erupted over how to conduct the vote, and multiple rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse.

The new law paves the way for a one-person, one-vote election in 2023 — the first such direct poll since 1969 — which Somalis have been promised for years and no government has managed to deliver.

A presidential election was due to have been held in February. It was to follow a complex indirect system used in the past in which special delegates chosen by Somalia’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.

Sanctions and visa restrictions

The international community has repeatedly called for elections to go ahead.

The United States, which has been Somalia’s main ally in recovering from decades of civil war and fighting Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists, said Tuesday it was “deeply disappointed” in the move to extend Farmajo’s mandate.

“Such actions would be deeply divisive, undermine the federalism process and political reforms that have been at the heart of the country’s progress and partnership with the international community, and divert attention away from countering Al-Shabaab,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.

He said the implementation of the bill would compel the US to “re-evaluate our bilateral relations… and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability”.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also threatened “concrete measures” if there was not an immediate return to talks on the holding of elections.

A coalition of opposition presidential candidates said in a joint statement that the decision was “a threat to the stability, peace and unity” of the country.

In February some opposition leaders attempted to hold a protest march, which led to an exchange of gunfire in the capital.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fuelled by clan conflicts.

The country also still battles the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab Islamist militant group which controlled the capital until 2011 when it was pushed out by African Union troops.

Al-Shabaab retains parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets in Mogadishu and regional towns.

Somalia still operates under an interim constitution and its institutions, such as the army, remain rudimentary, backed up with international support.

The 59-year-old Farmajo — whose nickname means cheese — was wildly popular when he came to power in 2017.

The veteran diplomat and former prime minister who lived off and on for years in the United States had vowed to rebuild a country that was once the world’s most notorious failed state, and fight corruption.

However, observers say he became mired in feuds with federal states in a bid for greater political control, hampering the fight against Al-Shabaab, which retains the ability to conduct deadly strikes both at home and in the region.

-AFP